Untitled, Part 1 of 2
Fandoms: The Voyage of the Dawntreader/Shoujo Kakumei Utena TV/Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku. Set after Dawntreader and during episode 33 of Utena TV. Spoilers for Utena TV to that point, none for either other fandom. Almost certainly comprehensible to those unfamiliar with at least one fandom, but I'm not promising.
Disclaimer: I am not Chiho Saito, Kunihiko Ikuhara, any part of BE-PAPAS, or C.S. Lewis, though I have the greatest respect for them all. I make no money. Also, I am not a Christian.
Pairing: no romantic pairing; written for the Pairing List that Ate Fandom's challenge of Utena/Aslan.
Rating: PG-13 for mature themes.
Summary: A pride of princes meet, and then converse.
Length: In full, almost four thousand words, split in halves.
Crossposted to ithurtsmybrain and my own journal.
There was a wall of water across the End of the World.
Utena knew that it must be a dream. She’d fallen asleep very early in the evening, and she’d been having a convoluted and pointless near-nightmare, which she was watching from a distance outside and above herself. She didn’t think there was much point to dreaming about a wall of water, but she was fairly certain she’d wake up presently, because they’d be home soon, after all. Akio’s car was going terribly fast, as usual, and if she thought a little, she knew that she must still be sitting in the front seat of it. If she concentrated, her eyes would even open slightly, pulling her back down into her body, but she could see nothing out the window but the darkness and the street lamps. Wind was whipping at her hair and blowing it into her mouth. If she let herself drift, however, she could see the End of the World from above, and there was a wall of water across it, a great endless wall of water like a wave forever just about to break, blue and green and wine-dark and shot with lines of bubbles and foam. It glowed with phosphorescent flashes, the aureoles of the streetlights appearing to move across it, although the water was actually moving towards them and the street lamps were perfectly stationary. It didn’t seem to matter very much. She was going to wake up any minute.
It mattered to dream-Akio, though, and she saw him furiously wrestling with the steering as the wheels of the car became entangled with thousands upon thousands of water-lily stems. The car was hydroplaning, suddenly, as more water and more lily pads poured gently and noiselessly across the road around them, and the streetlights started to blink. There were rose stems intermingled with the lilies. She could smell the blossoms. She thought that she would have to tell Anthy that someone had developed an aquatic strain of climbing rose. Even a driver of Akio’s capacities could not keep the car from slewing around and around in the increasing rush, and she wondered detachedly when he was going to give up. The noise of the water around the wheels made an odd chiming sound, like bells in the distance. There were droplets caught in her hair, on her forehead. It all felt very real, except that she was still watching herself from over her shoulder, and so knew that she was still asleep.
Akio did not give up on trying to force control back into his possession until they had actually hit the wave.
She saw the dream-Utena, sitting in the front seat, slide into the wall of water like a fish, curling in a boneless ease, her rose-colored hair showing dark through the water, her skin an astonished translucent golden, bubbles coming out of her mouth. The wave rushed toward her, and she hit it as though it were a wall of stone, shocked force of sea-foam in her eyes and nose. Suddenly her two selves were one and entirely real, and she was floundering, flailing, trying to find her way out or up or over into air and breathing in water with a kind of inevitable shock of wrongness, which would have caused her to scream if she had had any air in her lungs. The wave was a whirling torrent around her, heaving her upward and inward, and the taste of the water in her mouth contained no salt at all. Her eyes closed against the force of it; she tried to cough and couldn’t.
Was this drowning?
Something grabbed her by the scruff of the neck, something hard and firm and sharp, and jerked her with a violence more thorough than the water. Air, when she met it again, seemed an unfamiliar element. The world spiraled sickeningly until she found herself kneeling on soft sand, current splashing about her knees, leaning forward and coughing and retching. The scent of roses was overpowering, and there was a smell, as of hot stone or earth, that she could not identify, a sharp and clean smell.
When she sat wearily back into the sea-bed, she first saw the lion.
For a moment she thought that she might still be dreaming, since she felt no surprise and no fear. There was a light about the lion, faintly, and she could not tell whether he was standing in the water, or sitting in it, or standing or sitting somehow just above the water. He had no relation to the water at all. She discarded the idea that he was anything other than an absolute reality the moment she looked into his eyes.
Yes, those eyes said, you have been sleeping. Now, for the first time, you are awake. At last! There was a kind of joyous weariness in the way the lion held himself, with his strong shoulders a little slumped, and his mane pouring around them like honey in the unmoving light. It was hard to stop staring at him, but she knew she had to risk looking around her. There were no signs of Akio, or of the convertible, or even of the road. The wall of water stood unchanging, and the night sky above them was filled with stars.
She swallowed. “Do you know what happened to the person I was with?” she said, knowing from the expression of the lion that he could speak if he wanted to.
“He has gone back into the world,” said the lion, in a deep and musical voice. “He is looking for you there. He will find his own images of you, and return to betraying them. Do not fear for that one: he cannot be harmed in his own place.”
She looked around again: stars, and sea, and night, no land in view, and the sea less than six inches deep. Water-lily stems were twined around her ankles, and the lily blossoms and roses lay on the ocean like a sudden frost sprinkled with blood.
“Where are we, then,” she asked, a little put out, “if we aren’t in the world?”
“We are on the edges of my own country and the home of my father,” said he. “Here we will speak for some little time, before you go back into your own place.”
“I need to get back,” she said. “I have someone waiting for me.” Anthy would be worried, about her and about Akio.
“What has waited from time’s beginning can wait for you a little longer,” he said. “Daughter of Eve and Lilith, will you walk with me a while?”
She got to her feet, awkwardly. Her shoes were filled and squelching, and the stems in the water clung to her. The dye of her cherry-striped dress was running red-tinged down her legs. It looked like blood. She winced a little when she saw it, though there was no pain.
“I can’t stay long,” she said.
“There is no time here,” he said, and somehow she found herself believing it. Utena took a step towards him and nearly fell; her legs did not seem to carry her. “If your wound pains you,” he told her, “you may put a hand into my mane, as we walk.”
“I wasn’t hurt at all,” she said. “It was just water... Did you pull me out of it?” She reached out to the soft fur anyhow, wanting to feel it, and see if the light that shone from him could be touched. His mane tumbled through her fingers like gold velvet, rough and warm and heavy, and the feeling that came over her was suddenly familiar.
“When I was very small,” she said, “I met a prince once. He was very kind to me.” She looked down at the ring on her finger. “Was that you, too... sir?”
He laughed, and the sound was startling, a deep swift sudden mirth. “I am a prince,” he said, still laughing, “and the son of an emperor. However, you and I never met before I pulled you from the ocean. I wanted to meet with you, and talk as princes talk together. Indeed, I wanted to warn you, if I might.”
“Warn me?” She did not know what he could be talking about.
“Warn you,” he said, “if you will listen to the warning.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” She heard annoyance in her voice.
“Well, you haven’t listened to anyone else’s, before,” he said mildly, and then, turning swiftly toward her, fiercely, in an instant: “And do not say that you have received no warnings, child! The very roses in the garden have been warning you, and the stones of the walls. Everyone who loves you has warned you, and there are more of them than you know. Now you have taken harm that may be deadly. Prince or princess, will you listen?”
Utena shrank back from him a little, startled and just slightly frightened. His eyes were painful to look at, and a faint sound like the ghost of a growl was coming from deep in his chest, a growl that rose and climbed into a full-throated roar that resonated in her own rib cage. “Listen!”
“I am,” she said, stung to the quick, “but you haven’t told me anything yet!” She glared back at him, and then realized that they had the same expression and that she must look like she was about to growl herself. The silliness of that struck her, and she relaxed a little, seeing him settle back and draw himself together into a seated posture like a sphinx. His voice was serious, when he spoke to her again, but calm as well, as if it were water running too swiftly to ripple.
“Do you know what men have often called the Star of the Morning?” he asked her.
“Akio?” she said. “He said that he was named for the planet Venus, once.” He had pointed out the planet he was named for on the planetarium ceiling, but what she remembered most vividly from the conversation was his arm warm around her shoulders.
“They have also called it something else,” the lion said, and growled again a little, quickly, as though he spoke of a well-known and well-hated enemy. “I cannot tell you what that name is. But he means you harm, and every harm, and more than harm. He means harm to her also, and worse than he does to you.”
There was only one person he could mean by ‘her’, if he were talking about Akio.
“But Anthy is his sister,” said Utena. (A flash: she had seen something, something that was wrong: she would not remember it. Had Anthy betrayed her?) “He cares for both of us. He wants us to be like the Gemini, the twins; he said that when he told me about his name.” He had said they were even more beautiful than the Gemini. He had said that he wanted her to be Anthy’s friend.
“He does want you to be alike for him. He has already made you very nearly similar. You share the same misfortune, like the Gemini, who shared one death between them.” Utena could not make out the meaning of that. “Look to your wound, princess. You are bleeding.”
The dye from her dress was still running down her legs, red and black in rivulets, gleaming in the starlight and the light of the lion. She dabbled a finger in it. It was not dye. It was too thick and it smelled of meat when she held her finger to her face. There was a deep and grinding pain at the core of her, now, that she could feel faintly, in the distance, if she thought about it, if she thought about it hard, if she thought--
Utena remembered, suddenly, what Akio’s hands had looked like on her breasts, and shuddered, and burst into tears.